In the seven years since Buddy was born, I have only slept more than four hours at a stretch when away from the children for the night (or they are away from me). So, twice a year...maybe.
This is very sad.
As one who was not only fairly good at sleeping but enjoyed the whole process immensely, the changes wrought by parenthood were unwelcome.
It started in the later stages of pregnancy. Many go through the same thing; uncomfortably huge body doing weird things. Sleep becomes a little elusive... at 2 am you are wide awake, your arm is half numb when you weren't even lying on it, baby's doing gymnastics, you need to pee and your body temperature is going haywire.
It is preparing you for when baby arrives.
Buddy was breastfed and it didn't go smoothly but details of that may be for another post. We were on a two to four hour feeding schedule and he suffered from re-flux. I didn't sleep much. After a feed he would be uncomfortable and it took a long time to settle him. Once he was down, I would close my eyes and boom...or more accurately whaaaa...and I was up again.
The exhaustion was beyond terrible. I couldn't think at all, my head was stuffed with cotton wool instead of brain matter. One night after settling Buddy in for a feed, I fell asleep (passed out) and inadvertently dropped him on his head (Honey, I think I broke the baby!). On another evening, after a feeding I woke up face down in a small puddle of drool on the crib mattress, leaning over the crib railing with my feet still on the floor...the last thing I remembered was laying Buddy down and gazing tiredly yet fondly at his little face.
As breastfeeding faltered and we relied more and more on formula; coffee became my friend, my life support and vital to everyday functioning. I drank coffee the way toddlers would drink juice...if we let them of course, which we don't...
The problem is that coffee doesn't replace that cotton wool with brain matter. It just makes you feel as though you have more energy, you get all jangly and wired. A walking brain fart on speed really.
Before kids I was just slightly vague, a touch absentminded, only occasional brain farts. Add babies, exhaustion, cotton wool head and coffee and it was pretty much guaranteed to be a disaster. I could actually accomplish things...like showering before lunchtime but with very little brain power, autopilot almost. I would turn on the shower and forget for half an hour or get out of the shower without rinsing the shampoo out and not notice until I was dressed and combing my hair out..."Bubbles? Hmm that's a bit odd. I wonder what happened?"
I would drive places and have no memory of the journey (none at all). By the time Buddy was one, I was on a first name basis with the security people at the mall because I locked him and my keys in the car...more than once. I was on full speed, - "Let's go, let's go, let's go already!" Slamming of door. "Huh. That's not good."
I would get ready for trips out with baby, diapers bag, purse, bottles and out I would race. Without the baby. "Now I just know I'm forgetting something...whatever could it...damn."
Sometimes, I remembered the baby but not the diaper bag which resulted in some interesting conversations.
"Excuse me, elderly lady at the post office, you wouldn't happen to have a spare diaper on you by any chance? No? Sorry, no, no you don't look as though you would use them...I just thought...of course not...I am really sorry..."
I thought, as the children got older it would get better, but something had changed in me. I went from being a profoundly deep sleeper, to being a light sleeper. In part no doubt, because Silver Fox is so good at pretending to sleep through everything....including earthquakes (I say "pretending" because I have my suspicions). Both of us cannot sleep through childish wanderings; someone has to get up for the accidents, bad dreams, glasses of water and sleep walking. The slightest noise brings me fully, completely awake...a left over reflex from the days of listening for the smallest whimper.
Coffee is still vital. In the mornings, Buddy and Cuddles don't ask for breakfast until after the pot is on. They know better.
Whilst my days of locking the baby (and my keys) in the car may be behind me (it has been a couple of years now), I still suffer from a vagueness I don't seem to be able to shake. I sometimes get a panicked feeling after driving out of a parking lot; they are too quiet back there and I have no memory of putting them both in their seats. Did I forget one? Or both?
I long for sleep, the way some do for a long lost lover. I am terribly afraid that our time together may be done and lost forever...then I have a night with no children in the house. It's not the same as it was in times gone by yet it's wonderfully familiar. Sleep, old friend.
It is almost that time now, time for me to go to bed and you reading this, yes you...if you are planning on having children anytime soon...stop reading and go take a nap. Go on. It's OK. I'll wait, I know how much you will miss it when it's gone.
I shall sleep vicariously through you for a while, at least until my children move out.